Earlier this year, I submitted an application to the local arts council for the Cecil Day Lewis Literary Bursary Award. I really didn’t expect it to lead to anything, but as someone on the telly used to say (or maybe it was something to do with the lotto?), ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’. So, off my application went and I duly forgot all about it, until an envelope arrived in the post a few months later confirming that I was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Bursary Award for Emerging Writers.
I was thrilled! Me? Really?!
My first reaction was surprise. ‘But, I never win anything!’ And then I realised that I hadn’t won this award – I had been awarded it. Somebody, somewhere had read the chapters of the novel I’d submitted, had read the idea for the novel I was working on – and for which I would use the bursary to assist with research – and they liked what they read. Any writer will tell you how much it means to have their work appreciated; to have their words read by somebody who isn’t their sister, husband or mother-in-law; by somebody who thinks that their writing is worthy of supporting, financially or otherwise.
So, I was absolutely thrilled to receive the award at the closing event of the Kildare Readers’ Festival at the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge last Sunday. The festival took place over three days and was extremely well received. Highlights of the programme included sessions by Paul Howard and Joseph O’Connor, who spoke to a packed house at the Riverbank Theatre. There was also a great author panel featuring Martina Reilly, Roisin Meaney, Colm Liddy and Adrian Millar.
The final event of the festival was hosted by Dermot Bolger who spent a fascinating hour talking and reading poetry with Paul Durcan and Aidan Murphy before the bursary awards were announced. For a rainy Sunday morning the event was very well attended and after receiving the award, I was given the opportunity to read a chapter of my novel to a full theatre, which was a wonderful – if totally terrifying – experience!
Am I glad I submitted that application all those months ago? Absolutely. The bursary gives me a chance to make that research trip and attend that conference I wouldn’t otherwise have attended, but, apart from that, it is the acknowledgement that my writing is worthy of support which means the absolute world to me.